“I hope they document what I’m becoming…”
This time four years ago, whether or not Hip-Hop was truly aware, some wide-eyed, former TV actor, Jewish kid from Toronto stood on the brink of musical superstardom. The buzz for Drake’s third mixtape, appropriately titled So Far Gone, had reached mass hysteria-levels. Even the questions and doubts surrounding Lil Wayne’s prized find helped fuel anticipation.
Would the tape live up to its billing?
Would rap’s often fickle fan base accept an artist from outside its American boarders?
Could a former Degrassi star legitimately replicate what the Fresh Prince had done two decades earlier, only in reverse?
Was Drake a flash in the pan?
Followers of Drake’s music prior to 2009 were cognizant of his first tape Room For Improvement, a raw glimpse into what Graham was capable of producing during the Nickelus F phase of his career. 2007′s Comeback Season proved to be a testament supporting Aubrey’s authenticity as an artist. He could rap, and he could rap pretty damn well despite the release having no real road map. And as time eventually mapped out, SFG would crash land two years later literally catapulting a run so overwhelming, so infectious, so whatever the appropriate term is for “Drake blew the entire fuck up.” Call it Hip-Hop’s “Linsanity.”
Despite marquee features the likes of Santigold, Bun B, Lloyd, Lil Wayne and Trey Songz, Gone unquestionably casted Drake as the star of his own show. The tape was an illustration of flash, reflectiveness, emotion and bravado – essentially the four trademarks that would go on to define his music moving forward. SFG, more than anything, transcribed the tale of a 20-something-year-old attempting to wrap his brain around impending adult-fame while celebrating his dream becoming reality before his very eyes in real-time.
How the story pans out from here isn’t exactly confidential information. SFG would go on to become arguably 2009′s most impactful release spawning hit singles, a nationwide tour and quite the public bidding war. A year later he’d manifest his debut album Thank Me Later to instant success. His features were radio magnets. There was the fling with Rihanna whose island goodies allegedly incited a civil war in a New York nightclub. There were the countless women who “broke” his heart spawning new material and lingo (“Marvin’s Room”). His sophomore LP, Take Care, arrived in 2011 and now labels itself “Grammy-nominated.” Shit, he even graduated from high school and picked up culinary art.
Nonetheless, for a guy who arguably stole the show on a good chunk of last year’s biggest songs (“Pop That,” “Amen,” “No Lie,” “Stay Schemin’” and “Fuckin’ Problem”), distancing himself was a chess move.* The regression was by design allowing life and its experiences create music on its own without the pressures a deadline; a major component into the staggering transparency of his music. Drake strategically picked his spots in 2012, a tactic that could pay far-reaching dividends in 2013. In fact, he didn’t release a song of his own. Not one.
At some point in 2013, his third album will hit shelves. And with it shall accompany more than its industrial-sized share of hype, anticipation and vitriol. Still, for those clamoring for new music much sooner than later from the now-Los Angeles resident, how he manages the demand will be worth documenting.
Common knowledge suggests strategically picking dates to release songs with the intention being never to flood the market, but to keep demand a few notches higher than supply. Perhaps an EP of six or seven records 40 uploads at four in the morning like they’ve so famously done before is in the cards. This, of course, preceded by an ominous tweet or an Instagram photo of Drake smoking hookah in the studio – par to the course for OVO’s vague marketing tactics. Or maybe there is – admittedly a reach if there ever was one – a new tape those outside of his OVO comfort zone have no clue is on the horizon.
Like, possibly, say, So Far Gone 2? Chances are Drake would never refer to his hypothetical tape by said title anyway, in the same vein Curren$y and Wiz Khalifa decided to go with Live In Concert** instead of How Fly 2. The masses would unfairly deem it inferior prior to downloading regardless because the running logic suggests 98% of new material has a snowball’s chance in hell of replicating the quality of previous works (and sequels sometimes do suck). Similar to 2009, however, there is a certain degree of intrigue and mystery about the next chapter in his matriculation through the carnivorous world of rap. Unlike 2009 though, the questions of whether the hype can produce lucrative and critical successes are anything but up for debate.
The bottom line is this. Despite what a large conglomerate of his more awkward photos than Chris Bosh, message boards, Twitter handles and actions outside the recording booth may preach, Drake is a top-tier MC popularity-wise, talent-wise and output-wise. Parallels to a certain superstar basketball MVP-candidate in Miami are similar that aspect. Perhaps Drake and 40 lock themselves in a five-star hotel room with nothing but a laptop, microphone and pounds of weed to restore the feeling the weeks leading up to February 2009 helped bring about. Probably not, though. Four years ago proved a star was born. 2013, a more active 2013 at that with chart topping singles of his own, hammers home the notion that’ll start an argument quicker than Kobe/LeBron.
“Fuck back then, we the shit right now…”
He ain’t lyin’. There’s a body of work supporting that. And it’s growing.
* – It wasn’t Kanye in 2009-2010, but still.
** – Where the hell is that, by the way?